Letters to the Editor
Another Bahishti Zewar
Q. I am extremely grateful for the English translation of the book by Al-Tahawi Fundamentals of the Islamic Creed, and also Fake Pearls. I would like to repent but... is another wonderful translated book. We wish for more of similar translations. But Muhammad, the Unlettered Prophet who changed the world in 23 years and Islam, the religion you can no longer ignore have much scope for improvement. The foreword for Fundamentals of the Islamic Creed is just the best explanation for destiny I have ever come across. I have some questions which I hope you will answer. Some of my friends advise me that we should only read authentic Tafsir works. Tafsir Ibn Kathir is now available in English; or the one by Dr. Muhsin Khan & Dr. Taqiuddin Al-Hilali in nine volumes (which is boring).
Firstly, one should never say about the Book of Allah, or anything related to it or about a hadith work that it is boring.
Secondly, you may enquire the connoisseurs whether they will allow you to read the Arabic, unabridged version of Tafsir Ibn Kathir or do they insist that you read only the abridged version of Ibn Kathir? If they begin to sweat, well, let them sweat.
Q. I am told to strictly avoid Shabbir Uthmani, Shams Peerzada’s Dawal-ul-Quran, Maududi’s Tafheem and Maarif-ul-Quran by Mufti Shafti. According to them these Tafaasir are not approved by Saudi Arabian scholars. Comment briefly.
We do not know whom they are referring to when they mention Saudi Arabian scholars. If they are referring to the board of scholars that leads that nation, (who are, in Saudi Arabia, the only authority in religious matters, and not just anyone known as a Sheikh) if it is this board they mean, then you may ask your friends to produce a written Fatwa from the board. If they cannot, then they might be ignored.
You should also impress on them that if they wish to express their opinions, they should express them as their own, and not fasten them upon others to attribute to them what they did not say.
Q. We wish to know your opinion about the lectures and books of Abu Ameena Bilal Philips; especially the book Evolution of Fiqh.
We hold a good opinion of Abu Ameena Bilal Philips. May Allah guide him to some constructive work! His thoughts and information as he mentions in the book, will, we are sure, undergo evolution as time passes by.
Q. We request you for a short biography of great scholars like Abul Ala Maududi, Sheikh Ahmed Deedat, Sheikh Bin Baaz, Naseeruddin al-Albani, similar to the one you gave us about Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, which was fabulous.
It was Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi’s personality that was fabulous.
As regards biographies of others, our staff is working on a project near about it, and might produce something.
Q. Is our beloved Prophet (pbuh) also in Barzakh?
It is an indiscreet question. However Barzakh is the world between this and the next world. And, it can be different for different people as this world is different for different people.
Q. Islamic Voice carried an article which reported the incident of the discovery of two Companions, whose bodies were found intact, when re-dug some time in the second half of the last century. My relatives who are involved in all kinds of Bid’at show this article to me to prove their point. Are they correct?
The said incident is not known in the Arab world as to have occurred. Secondly, even if some time, somewhere, a few bodies of the dead are discovered – long buried – it will be silly logic to apply it as a rule to the graves of the unknown and unknowable – called Awliya’ Allah.
There are two ways to establish that the bodies of Awliya’ Allah are preserved in the graves: (a) the Prophet said so, or (b) dig up a few graves. Your relatives can choose either of the two. But to start consecrating without any evidence, or build faith and practices upon surmises is the way of the ignorant.
Q. One of my friends accuses you of recommending books only of Indian scholars especially of Deoband.
Q. even though there are other great scholars like Sheikh bin Baaz, Nasiruddin Albani, whose books have been translated into English.
The books we recommend are of Tafsir, Hadith (with commentary), biographies of the Prophet and his Companions, those of Islamic History, and a few pertaining to modern situation. Look into a list of books by the above scholars and let us know which one could be included in our beginner’s course.
Q. You have also neglected them in your editorial of January 2000 “The old and the new Century – 1.”
At present we are concentrating on the new century!
Q. You never recommend excellent books like Etiquettes of life in Islam. Or Al-halal wa al-haram fil Islam, or The Prophet’s (saw) Prayer described by Albani.
We recommend books which lay the foundation for a deeper and wider understanding of Islam: one that can guide through the present day challenges and difficulties. As regards other books – such as those of Fiqh – our readers can make their own choices.
Q. Is The Easy Dictionary of the Qur’an by Sheikh Abdul Kareem Parekh good for starting to learn Arabic? It gives meanings of all words appearing in the Qur’an Surah-wise from beginning to end. Or, is a teacher necessary?
It is good for gaining familiarity with the message of the Qur’an, prepared for those who do not have the intellectual ability, or the interest, to learn the Arabic language.
Q. I came across a book by Ashraf Ali Thanwi which prescribes cure for tuberculosis, leprosy, to chase mosquitoes away to forests, for rats, cockroaches, for defective eye sight, etc., by reciting verses of holy Qur’an… Are these authentic?
Firstly, once someone achieves fame, literary works are fastened on to him to increase sales. So, the authenticity must be checked before any comment.
Secondly, Mawlana Thanwi’s main work was Bayaan al-Qur’an followed by his Fataawa and then those works that he wrote to combat perverted Sufism. Bayaan al-Qur’an is one of the best translations and commentaries around in Urdu. It inculcates in its reader high degree of logical thinking, rationalism, accuracy of thought and a razor-blade balance in outlook. It is for highly intellectual people. It was originally written for the masses, but, with the fall in standards, today it can only be studied before a good Qur’an scholar. This is his main contribution, and if someone, especially a person who has been educated on modern lines, reads such books as Qur’an and Medicinal Practices, then, it is a tragedy of such nature as to demand a few minutes walk in the open.
Q. In Bahishti Zewar he says that sickness can be treated by exorcism or charms. Next, the scholar tells us different `Amal for head and toothache, pains, weakness of mind, weakness of eye-sight, stammering, depression, cholera and plague, spleen, fever, boils and ulcers, snake/ dog bite, to get son, small-pox cure etc. I used to practice some of these things till my friend said that these acts were Bid’at;, now I have stopped.
It seems you could have been moved by the definition of religion as one that solves day to day problems of life. Perhaps you did not realize that Islam is about one’s closeness to Allah, struggling in His cause, and being of service to His creations. That definition led you to those kinds of books and those kinds of practices.
Anyone, who is educated on modern lines, and reads that kind of literature is completely off the mark. It is recommended that he read a few books of Mawlana Mawdudi, Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, Sayyid Qutub, Muhammad Qutb, and others of their class in order to increase his depth of understanding, and to know the demands of the present times.
That apart, Bahishti Zewar (Paradisic Jewellery) is a great work. A genius that he was, Mawlana Thanwi could have seen at his time that 90% Muslims in India lived in villages. And their religion and culture were filled with beliefs and practices that had only shadowy basis in the religion of Islam. Apart from several innovations that they practised, they believed in superstitions and omens, and saw magic or evil eye as the reason for every ill that befell them. Consequently, they were exploited by all kinds and classes of people: witch doctors, quacks, magicians, soothsayers, pseudo-holy men, and others. If they were bitten by a scorpion, the charmer was always there to remove the poison, and pick up his fee. If a woman was pregnant, there was someone to prevent miscarriage through his incantation, or offer an amulet for getting a son. If the crops failed, the village priest needed to be appeased, etc.
So Thanwi, although considered Sheikh of the Shuyukh, whose company the scholars of the time sought for enlightenment, perhaps realized that apart from his highly scholarly works, the greater need of the hour was a book which could address these 90% Muslims. However, the book had to be in their language, diction, vocabulary, address their issues, and must work through their culture, rather than in high diction and filled with quotation from the Qur’an and Hadith: quotations that are as fearsome to the ignorant villagers as mathematical equations to the city dweller. So, he wrote Bahishti Zewar. It was a remarkable work and a well-directed effort. For him to write a book of that sort must have been a challenge of a high order. It was like asking a Western philosopher, used to handling such complicated issues as existentialism, to write a volume consisting of short discourses in the language of the villagers that would educate them. He would of course say, “Well, that’s not for me. Look for a folk-lore writer.” But Mawlana Thanwi took it upon himself, and it came out a hit since he primarily addressed women through it. It sold in millions and entered into every home. Many brides were given a copy as a dower gift. And wherever it went, it chased out many innovations, cured the people of superstitions, and, ultimately made those buy a copy of the Qur’an who were used to consulting witch-doctors. Further, while the book educated in Tahaarah, Salah, Zakah, Fasts, and other essentials of Islam, it also saved its readers from the exploitation at the hands of the exploiters and attenuated their influence. It stated how to manufacture simple things, like soap, or get cured of scorpion bite through Qur’anic recitation, which has no medical remedy anyway.
May Allah not look upon the half-witted amongst us who are running a campaign against him, criticising him for this very work; but rather, raise amongst us another genius to write another Bahishti Zewar. Today’s new situation and new culture require another such ingenious idea and book, in a language which could be understood by today’s village-dwellers as well as those of the cities many of whom have been transformed into having the minds of villagers. Today, there isn’t any book in their homes. None whatsoever. Bahishti Zewar has been replaced by fashion magazines and video cassettes.
Q. Comment on how such a great scholar could write such books.
Comment on how a young man, a city dweller, educated on modern lines, serious in his religion, can read a book without knowing who it was originally meant for?
Q. After being recommended by YMD, I wanted to read Imam Ghazali’s Ihyaa Uloom al-Deen, but a friend said it contains a lot of wrong ideas and it is similar to Fazail-e-amal with fake hadith. Is he correct?
Quite wrong. It is said – with obvious exaggeration – that if the Ummah were, by any chance to lose all its books (except, of course, the Qur’an and Hadith), but is left with Ihyaa’, it would suffice it for many purposes.
We have not, in any case, recommended this book to those who have not done some basic reading. It would not be the right course for the sophomores to start with an advanced book of this sort.
Q. Is Mishkat–ul-Masaabih, authentic?
This is the compilation of a Shafe‘ee scholar, but adopted by the Hanafiyy Madrasaas as a course book and hence it receives its share of criticism at the hands of those who seem to have a penchant liking for things Hanafiyy. In any case, in religious schools, the teacher discusses all necessary issues including how reliable, in what sense, is a report here, or a report there; but may not be the best suited for common readers. We recommend in place Ibn Majah, or Mashaariq al-Anwar.
Q. I bought the English translation of Sahih Bukhari by Dr. Muhammad Matraji. Later on, I heard Dr. Zakir Naik and read many books by A. A. Bilal Philips and others. All of them refer only to translation by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, which is accurate according to all. Now, is it safe to read Dr. Matraji’s translation by Islamic Book Service, New Delhi. Is he a reliable translator?
We regret that we have not yet seen the work you have referred to. However, no translator can do a good job with Islamic source books. You have to make the best of what you have.
Q. What’s your opinion about destiny and Divine decree?
Our opinion is that it should not be discussed. The Prophet forbade it.
Q. What is your opinion about the personality development workshops like Landmark Forum, De-silva Mind Control or Zeal Training, Tap your Genium or Winner’s workshop. Most of them cost 5-6000/- each. I attended one and wasted money. It was an utter waste of time and money. Please comment.
You have already commented.
Q. And like Sheikh Ahmed Deedat says the Qur’an is the most positively motivating book. If you are very keen, read books by Dale Carnegie, Stephen S. Covey, Anthony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, etc. But don’t join these useless courses. There are no short cuts to success, it demands a lot of continuous hard work.
We do not agree that the courses you have referred to can be replaced by the works of writers such as Dale Carnegie, Stephen… and others. Their ideas are just one level above those of the useless personality development course of your mention, but equally futile and hollow.
Failed personalities cannot develop other people’s personalities. Those you have named can, at best, entertain you. They cannot educate. The American hit writer, Dale Carnegie, by the way, who wrote books on how to be happy and make others happy, which sold in millions, ended his life by committing suicide.
Q. I have read in YMD that to make up for the one or two drops of urine that may ooze out after urination, a little water should be sprinkled over the pubic area. My question is, should we sprinkle the water inside the under garment or over?
Over the garment in direct contact.
Q. A sincere suggestion to the Ahl al-hadith: what makes them so sure that only the Ahl al-hadith are the saved sect?
They don’t claim it.
Q. The term Ahle hadith is neither mentioned in holy Qur’an nor the Hadeeth…
You have asked us not to mention your name, and, therefore, we are not completing your question. When one raises an objection, one has to own it.
Q. What is your opinion about this scholar called Rabbani from an Arab country? In a speech, he spoke against blind following of Madhabs in a very provocative manner. He criticized all the scholars of India, Pakistan and the subcontinent. Scholars according to him are the cause of bid’at and lack of Islamic knowledge. People don’t read Qur’an and hadith because scholars prevent them, etc. But I didn’t like his way of speaking.
There is a lesser chance we will like what you disliked.
Q. Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jeelani said: “As for al-Firqatun Najiyah, it is Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jama’ah, and there is no name for Ahlus Sunnah except one and that is Ashaabul-Hadith.” How good is the book? Is it really written by al-Jeelani? Has he written any other book?
You have not named the book. Further, most of the literature attributed to him is doubtfully his.
Q. How can Islam tackle the problems of corruption, and population growth?
Islam solves the problem of corruption in one minute. As soon as a man declares himself a Muslim, Islam demands that he offer Prayers five times a day, without which his Islam is unacceptable. Then, as one prepares himself to offer the Prayers, he is told that if he has an ounce of blood in him earned through unlawful means, his Prayers are not accepted. He must earn his bread through lawful means. So, he is not a Muslim without Prayers, and his Prayers are not accepted unless his earning is lawful. Thus, the problem of economic corruption is solved by Islam in one minute.
As regards population control, kindly wait for an editorial to appear on the topic soon, Allah willing.
Q. As you also write on other religions comparing with Islam, please write on the laws in Hinduism as to which of them are impractical, or due to which society will be unbalanced?
It is difficult to compare Islamic laws with those of other religions. That is because Islamic law controls every facet of human life and, hence, not only a society but a whole nation can be built following Islamic laws. Large populations of several countries such as Afghanistan, the Gulf, or Malaysia, live entirely by Islamic laws without borrowing anything from outside. In a few countries, courts rule by Islamic laws. Since no such system of comprehensive laws exists apart from that of Islam, any comparison will have to be of only parts and not the whole. Now, since parts are to be explained in terms of the whole, a proper explanation will not be possible.
Further, the laws of other religions have been criticized by the followers of those religions themselves. Criticism or comparison by others, then, is uncalled for, especially in an atmosphere where the majority of people are not ready to discuss any religious issue openly.
Q. How can you prove that God has revealed only the Qur’an?
We do not say that Allah revealed only the Qur’an. The Qur’an itself states that Torah, Zabur and Gospels are His revelations. But if you mean how we can prove that the Qur’an is a revelation, then the answer is that the fact of it having undergone no change since it revelation 1400 years ago, with no other example before us, is a strong evidence of its revelational nature. Further, despite being such an old book, it remains entirely meaningful today, capable of guiding the humans to a peaceful life. This is another evidence that it is from Allah. For a more detailed discussion, please see some books on Islam.
Q. In your Letters to the Editor section and other articles, you present some Qur’anic verses and ahadith. You give the reference of Qura’nic verses, but hadith is stated without any reference. Kindly give the reference, whether it is from Bukhari, Nasai, etc.
From a common man’s point of view, especially in India, it is pointless to state the sources. For, saying that a hadith is from Ibn Majah, for example, has no meaning for him. In fact, even for someone who knows what is Ibn Majah, such reference is of little practical value without us stating whether the hadith is Sahih, Hasan, or whatever, since, apart from Bukhari and Muslim, all hadith compilations consist of a variety of reports. Therefore, what we do is to check the hadith we quote for its authenticity. That leads us to books of Hadith Criticism with which the readers are unfamiliar.
All ahadith that appear, therefore, in this magazine are trustworthy. If they are not, then the opinion about them is stated. Thus, if an opinion is not stated, the reader may rest assured that the hadith is trustworthy.
Furthermore, the main area where ahadith appear is the Hadith Explains column. There we state the source. But, the fact is, some of such sources are stated for our own reasons. Later, we know where to search them. To the reader such stating of sources may not be meaningful e.g., Al-Jami‘ al-Sagheer. How many people know what book is this? So, if we state it in the column, it is for ourselves. As for the reader, our assurance is enough that any hadith in this magazine has some or the other authority declaring it trustworthy.
Signs of Judgment Day
Q. Is it necessary for a Muslim to follow any one of the four Imaams? Or should we just follow all the authentic ahadeeth? I ask that because sometimes these Imaams (may Allah have mercy upon them) contradict the authentic reports of our Prophet (saws).
Firstly, you must be aware that you do not follow an Imam. Nobody does it. No one has ever followed Imam Shafe‘i, or Ahmed ibn Hanbal, or others. Far from common people, even for scholars it will be difficult to follow the opinions of any one of the four Imams. But rather, the people follow one of the four schools of which the foundation were laid by the said Imam. For example, Hanafis do not follow the opinions of Imam Abu Haneefah. They follow the opinions of the Hanafi school of thought. So also, the Hanbalis follow the Hanbali Madh-hab. It is not Imam Ahmed b. Hanbal that they follow. The famous work Al-Mughni, e.g., was not written by Imam Ahmed b. Hanbal. That applies to all Madh-habs. This is because the particular school of thought took a long time to mature after its foundations were laid by the Imam of that school. During that period of maturity, which lasted a couple of centuries, several renowned scholars made their contributions to the school, individually and collectively. For, primarily, what the Imam (and his colleagues) had initially done was to lay the intellectual basis and provide the working principles. Those who followed them, down to this day, do it for one of the two reasons: either they are of the common folks and cannot work out Shari‘ah law on their own, such of them have no choice but to follow an Imam’s school; or the followers are scholars who agree with the principles of the school. If they do not, then of course, since they have the intellectual capability, they switch over from one to another school. There have been therefore, although not many, but occasional cases of scholars switching schools because they found that the principles of the new school matched better with their own understanding of the Islamic Law. They had, then intellectual grounds, and gave intellectual reasons for their preferences.
In rare cases, if a scholar reaches the status of Ijtihad then he is not bound to follow any Madh-hab. He can, in fact, start off his own Madh-hab, which the common people are free to follow or not to follow.
It is also incorrect to say that the Imams, or anyone of them, ignored a hadith, or was unaware of it, because of which his ruling is now incorrect. To make such an allegation, one firstly needs to establish whether the reference is to the ruling of the school of thought, or is it, to the Imam’s ruling, since, as we know, most people are confused or misinformed over the issue and so, fasten an opinion to an Imam while it might be the opinion of the school of Law or vice versa.
In either case, one needs to, in the next step, establish that if there is a hadith which contradicts the opinion of the Imam or the school. Thereafter, the following have to be established: (a) Is the hadith, which seems to contradict, complete or is it part of a long report? (b) What is the established meaning of the hadith? Is it understood by the scholars in the same sense, as an ordinary person understands it, especially if the person does not know Arabic, and depends on translations? (c) Are there other ahadith on the topic at hand but giving out a different sense? (d) Is there any contradiction in the meaning of the hadith with any established source text? (e) If it is a hadith with a single source, then was the reporter’s own practice reported, and if so, does it reconcile with his report?
The above are a few points. There are several other issues involved before it can be judged if any of the Fuqahaa or their followers ruled against a hadith. But, for the common folk, it is best not to go into the exercise, because they lack the tools for it and the knowledge. It is like high school boys questioning Quantum theory’s rightness or wrongness. If they wish to do that, they should do graduation, then masters, and finish with a Ph.D., to be able to attempt a meaningful criticism.
Q. Can you please give me the correct order of the major signs of the Day of Judgement?
Younus Hasan Khan,
The major signs of the closeness of the Hour are ten. But there is no agreement among the scholars over the order because the ahadith do not mention them in any specific order. The following order is conjectural: (1) The Smoke, (2) Dajjal, (3) ‘Isa ibn Maryam (asws), (4) Yajuj and Majuj, (5) Sunrise from the West, (6) The Animal that will speak to the people, (7) Earth-sinking in the West, (8) Earth-sinking in the East, (9) Earth-sinking in the Arab world, and (10) A fire that will start from Yemen and drive the people to the Field of Reckoning. Some have placed the three sinkings at the beginning. Allah knows best.
Q. Please answer my questions in the light of Qur’an and Hadith. Usually after Asr and Fajr prayers the Imams sit with their face towards the followers. Why?
This is half way of doing what the Prophet used to do. After every Prayer he would turn to the followers and sit for a while facing them, while he and they all did Dhikr. Perhaps he waited for someone to ask a question. Sometimes he himself inquired if anybody had seen a good dream. Then, after a few moments, he left. Most of his Companions also left to offer their Sunnah/ Nafil prayers at home.
The Hanafiyy opinion is that, one may go into Dhikr after the Fard Prayers, provided the Dhikr does not lead to not doing the Sunnah/ Nafil Prayers. However, experience showed that once the people sat down in Dhikr – immediately after the Fard Prayers – then such sitting lengthened and ultimately they left without offering the Sunnah/ Nafil which they didn’t do at home also. Therefore, the Hanafiyy Imam now turns and sits doing Dhikr after ‘Asr and Fajr Prayers, at which time there is no prescribed Sunnah/ Nafil prayers, but not after the other three Prayers of the day, allowing the followers to start their prescribed Sunnah/ Nafil prayers.
Q. Why do the Imams sit between the Khutba of Friday and Eid prayers?
This is the way of the Prophet.
Q. Why do the people change their places to offer Sunnah/ Nafil Prayers?
Mirza Arzoo Baig, B.Sc,
We are not too sure of the origin of the practice. As stated above, at the time of the Prophet, most Companions did not offer their Sunnah/ Nafil prayers at the mosque. They did them at home so we can’t say the practice you have asked about is their practice.
However, there could be one reason, as some scholars have said, that the people are moved by the reports that the earth will bear witness of so and so Praying on it on such and such a day. So, presumably people change position in hope that several spots of earth will bear witness of their Prayers. Allah knows best.